Interview with Elaura Niles, Author of SOME WRITERS DESERVE TO STARVE! 31 BRUTAL TRUTHS ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY

Elaura Niles, author of SOME WRITERS DESERVE TO STARVE! 31 BRUTAL TRUTHS ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY (Writer’s Digest, 2005), is a former writing conference coordinator who was inspired to pen an advice book to writers based on her experiences in the publishing world.


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INTERVIEW:

When did your passion for writing begin?

I’ve had a lot of passions… painting, dancing, music, sculpting. Overall, I’m a really creative person and for a long time I was looking for the right outlet (because I really sucked at the above-mentioned activities). While I took stabs at writing poetry and short stories for years, nothing really gelled until 1999 when I bought a book called “The Weekend Novelist” by Robert Ray and finally found the courage to begin penning my magnum opus (that no one wanted to publish).

Can you tell us what your typical “writing” day is like?

Well, first my husband ties me in my chair… just kidding. I always wake up early. That’s the one constant. My writing days have been pretty chaotic this past year. In the early hours I journal, drink coffee and do a few free form thinking exercises to blow out the cobwebs. Then I get to it. Recently, I read a book called “Page After Page” by Heather Sellers. Using her exercises I am trying to lead a more structured writing life.

Do you write full time?

Except for the siren song of a church rummage sale, I’m here at my computer.

Can you tell us a little about SOME WRITERS DESERVE TO STARVE: 31 BRUTAL TRUTHS ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?

First, the title and the structure are all because of a brilliant editor named Jane Friedman. Under her leadership, I rewrote a manuscript titled “Who Buys Lunch? Protocol For Writers” – it had been on submission to publishers for about a month when Jane seized upon it.

Who published your book and how has your experience with them been?

Writer’s Digest published STARVE earlier this year. Greg Hatfield is my hero. The whole team at WD has been incredibly supportive, but Greg went above and beyond, making sure the book received national attention.

Can you tell us the inspiration behind SOME WRITERS DESERVE TO STARVE: 31 BRUTAL TRUTHS ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?

My years as a conference coordinator led me to write this book. I saw hundreds of writers making career-crippling mistakes, and while I could take a few of them aside and help, I realized a book would be a better way to pass on my experiences. I’d like to add that the only way I knew these writers were ruining their chances of success was because I had already messed up in the exact same ways.

Can you tell us ways you are promoting your book? Have they been successful?

Thanks to Greg Hatfield, I’ve been invited to many writing conferences, done radio and print interviews. I’m working toward TV. Recently a panel I moderated was taped for broadcast on a local cable station.

Who are your favorite authors and why do they inspire you?

When I first began writing, I loved Olivia Goldsmith’s witty prose. I tried to emulate her by writing out “Marrying Mom” in longhand, trying to figure out how to steal her rhythm and voice. Of course, it didn’t work. Eventually I found my own style, but the late, great Ms. Goldsmith is still my idol.

Do you have a mentor?

I’ve had many mentors… and not just writer mentors. It’s important for all artistic types to have creative life mentors. Face it, saying you’re going to do something -- like writing, painting, music or puppeteering -- is a scary first step. Follow through can be brutal. My first mentor was Susana Domingues, a tango dancer. Through her example, I found the courage to write.

What future projects do you have in the works?

Novels. That’s my true love. I have several outlined, it’s just hard to find the courage to bring them to life (not to mention the months of ass-in-chair time).

What do you feel are the pros and cons of the publishing industry today?

The pros are the people that get behind you to make a project something bigger than you ever imagined. The cons are the people, with their own agendas, who ding you every chance they get – just to pump their own egos. It takes a lot of time and effort to write books. We should celebrate everyone that does.

Can you give aspiring authors words of advice toward getting published?

There are many aspects to “getting published.” Understanding the industry is really the key to becoming a part of it.

What’s one thing about your life that you think is important, but nobody asks?

Well I could trill on for hours about the two baby owls (Great Horned!) in my backyard this year. I’m totally obsessed with my sixteen-week-old feathered friends (and the rapidly declining rabbit population around here), but I realize that won’t help anyone get published. So my official answer will be naps and exercise. When I hit a seemingly unsolvable snag, either in writing or life, naps help facilitate problem-solving. I also take a lot of short walks during the day, usually every hour or so. It helps improve my focus, plus I get to check on my owls.

Can you tell us where we can go to buy SOME WRITERS DESERVE TO STARVE: 31 BRUTAL TRUTHS ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?

Barnes & Noble chose STARVE as an “Impulse Buy” for February 2005. Borders has been a wonderful supporter of the book, too, as well as many independent bookstores.

You can visit Ms. Niles' website at www.elauraniles.com.
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